The Marvel Cinematic Universe has entered Phase Five with a lackluster third Ant-Man movie, but there is still room for the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 video game to rekindle the enthusiasm of Marvel true believers. Marvel’s ventures outside comic books have been largely successful, and the MCU established a template that other franchises have tried to emulate for more than a decade. With multiple movies and Disney+ Marvel television series coming each year, the MCU is more over-saturated than ever before, leading to MCU fatigue. The original continuity established in the Marvel’s Spider-Man game series remains fresh and exciting, and slower release schedules allow each title room to breathe.
Not every Marvel gaming venture is equally successful, and those wondering why Marvel’s Avengers is being delisted soon can look to the MCU, in part, for the answer. The game followed the regrettable trend of “games as a service,” to the detriment of an otherwise competent main story campaign. That story was also held back by its over-reliance on the MCU’s version of the Avengers team. Marvel’s Avengers was afraid to stray far from the familiar heroes featured in the 2012 movie, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was similarly limited in its choice of protagonists. Conversely, Marvel’s Spider-Man was distinctly different from the MCU version of the character.
The MCU Could Not Lead With Popular Marvel Characters Like Spider-Man & Wolverine
The version of Peter Parker in the video game was not the high-school aged hero of the MCU, but a somewhat more experienced vigilante working part-time as a research assistant. Marvel’s Spider-Man opened with the Kingpin’s arrest, a villain who has not crossed paths with Spider-Man in the movies. The fresh approach of Marvel’s Spider-Man proved Marvel games need to stop chasing the MCU, with other foes who have not been featured on the big screen – like The Rhino and Scorpion – also featured, along with newer creations like Mister Negative. The MCU avoided using Spider-Man for many years due to licensing issues with the movies, and the X-Men were similarly passed over.
Insomniac’s first Marvel game focused on Spider-Man, and its upcoming projects include a Wolverine game. Spider-Man and the X-Men have long been two of Marvel’s most beloved franchises, and by beginning their gaming take on the Marvel universe with those characters as the starting point, the gaming developer does what the MCU could not. The MCU did a laudable job building up characters like Iron Man and Thor, but Spider-Man and Wolverine are more popular characters that were initially unavailable to Marvel Studios. The Insomniac games are leading with two of Marvel’s most iconic heroes, and Marvel’s Wolverine could herald an X-Men comeback in gaming.
Beyond its ability to tell stories the studio is interested in, instead of focusing on promoting characters available due to licensing issues, the slower production pace of the games, and their overall quality, set them apart from the MCU. Keeping up with the MCU involves tracking three to four movies per year on average, and multiple Disney+ series now add to the obligatory viewing for hardcore MCU fans. The Miles Morales spinoff game came two years after the original Marvel’s Spider-Man, and that game’s sequel is slated to release roughly a year prior to Marvel’s Wolverine. Gaming fans can easily complete each title before the next one is released.
Insomniac’s Games Have The Fresh Feel Of The Early MCU
Video games are a more active form of media than film and television, which also sets the series apart from the MCU. Each player can explore a fresh Marvel continuity, letting Spider-Man follow the Batman: Arkham series’ approach wherein dynamic, surprising twists are possible. Common sentiments hold that each new MCU film or television series exists to advertise the next batch of MCU stories, instead of focusing on its own. Though Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will share a continuity with Insomniac’s Wolverine game, players can expect it to tell its own story, instead of acting as one more piece of a puzzle that will not come together until Phase Six.
In the past it would have been inappropriate to compare video game adaptations of comics to the film versions. Gaming storytelling has evolved over time, and the cinematic style of action game Insomniac has produced with the Marvel licenses contains every bit as much emotion and character development as any of the MCU films. Keeping track of the complex continuity changes of Marvel’s comics over the years is a daunting task. Information released about Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 confirms Venom and Kraven the Hunter will appear, but players do not have to do any homework to understand the game’s story; the clean continuity of the video games is far more accessible.
With the introduction of the multiverse to the MCU, which now includes each of the earlier Spider-Man film series, along with the many alternate worlds depicted in the What If…? animated series, the MCU is getting closer to the complexity of the comic books. This can be rewarding for longtime fans, but a game like Marvel’s Spider-Man that provides all needed context in its own story is a welcome change of pace. The original game and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales have established a take on Marvel with its own unique tone, and seeing it grow with the next game is a welcome prospect.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 Could Deliver A More Mature, Somber Story Than Most MCU Films
Trailers have shown Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 is avoiding the comics’ recent redesign of Miles Morales’ suit, sticking close to the Ultimate Comics look. Unlike those comics, Peter Parker and Miles Morales share the task of defending New York City, where in Ultimate Spider-Man Miles took on the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter’s passing. The origin of Doctor Octopus was given far more emotional weight than most depictions of the character, and players can likely expect similar heart-wrenching storytelling from Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. While the tone of individual MCU productions may vary, they are largely known for a homogenized approach, leaning into quips and banter over gravitas.
It may seem odd to expect more serious storytelling from a video game than a movie, but Insomniac has set a high bar thus far. It is reasonable to expect Kraven and Venom will be presented as fleshed out antagonists, akin to Mister Negative and Doctor Octopus in the original game. Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 could borrow from darker comics, like the Kraven’s Last Hunt storyline from the late 1980s. Where the MCU has grown more rote and tedious for many, a game like Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 rekindles the excitement of seeing a bold new interpretation of a beloved comic universe revealed.